Backcheck: a Hockey Retrospective

Hockey is Canada's game. But as everyone knows, a game is much more than just a game.

Hockey is surely the most Canadian of metaphors. When explaining something complicated, Canadians will often make a comparison to hockey in order to make the concept easier to understand. It is also fairly common to compare politics and hockey. Businesses motivate their managers or sales people by drawing parallels between their challenges and those of a hockey game. Even in church, a priest has been heard to explain in his sermon that the faithful will go to heaven like a puck into the net; but that to do so they have to outsmart Satan at the blue line!

Hockey is also the history of Canadians. The game reflects the reality of Canada in its evolution, ambitions, character, tensions and partnerships. If you want to see a child's eyes sparkle, ask: "Who's your favourite hockey player?" If you want to light up the eyes of a Canadian of a certain age, be they a judge, doctor or blue-collar worker, ask: "Do you remember when Maurice Richard…?"

I encourage you to explore the Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective site. Discover the hidden treasures of Library and Archives Canada. You will be fascinated. Astounded. Moved. Not only will you find yourself back at the rink, but you will also find yourself back in time, exploring all of Canada. Go ahead and take a skate around this site!

About this site

This digital project's primary focus is on the early days of hockey. Materials from the collection of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are presented to trace the development of Canada's national winter sport.

The site includes a chronological presentation of hockey stories from English and French language newspapers, providing a valuable resource for online hockey research. The site also includes feature articles, rare items from the collection of LAC, as well as a guide to hockey resources at LAC.

Backcheck : Hockey for Kids is a parallel site intended to interpret this material for a younger audience.


LAC gratefully acknowledges the invaluable partnership of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) in the development of ARCHIVED - Backcheck: a Hockey Retrospective. The SIHR working group is coordinated by SIHR past-president Paul Kitchen, and includes:

  • J.W. (Bill) Fitsell -- Founding president of SIHR, retired columnist for the Kingston Whig Standard, hockey historian and author of Hockey's Captains, Colonels and Kings
  • Ernie Fitzsimmons -- President of SIHR, hockey historian, and consulting statistician for Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League
  • Ed Sweeney -- Curator of Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, hockey researcher and writer
  • Michel Vigneault -- Sports historian, hockey researcher and writer

This group identified newspaper articles for the "Great Hockey Stories" section. Bill Fitsell contributed the essay on the origins of hockey and Michel Vigneault contributed the essay on French-Canadian hockey traditions.

Other authors also provided essays for the site: Brian McFarlane, hockey researcher and author of Proud Past, Bright Future: 100 Years of Canadian Women's Hockey, contributed the article on women's hockey in Canada, Denis Gibbons, who has worked as chief of research (ice hockey) for the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks, provided the essay on international hockey; and April "A.J." Bellegarde, a Cree freelance journalist based in Calgary, is the author of the essay on Aboriginal hockey.

We are very grateful to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper for his generous loan to LAC of the rare book Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game by Arthur Farrell. Additional thanks to Brian Malone and Red Fisher for bringing national attention to this treasure, and to the Milwaukee Public Library for their assistance in determining the missing pages of the book.

Our greatest appreciation is reserved for Paul Kitchen, the curator of Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective and author of the essay on the origins of hockey. His research efforts on behalf of this project have been nothing short of monumental and his enthusiasm for the game of hockey is evident throughout the material showcased here.

We also gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the Department of Canadian Heritage, whose financial assistance through ARCHIVED - Canadian Culture Online made this work possible.

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